Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
W. B. Abbott | Oakland, CA USA | 03/28/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Gordon Giltrap's "Fear Of The Dark" is exactly what you'd expect from a self-taught guitar virtuoso with medieval/folkie inclinations who falls in with people who do music for TV, in 1978. I've loved this record since I first heard it 19 years ago, and I'm delighted to have a copy, not just a cassette dub. It was worth the wait.
Giltrap's guitar playing, mostly accoustic, some electric, is stunning. The production gloss is so high you can just about see your reflection, and the drums/bass/keyboards/string section is tight, well rehearsed and to the point. There's real musical value in the composition and arangement, not just boogie-ing on.
The title track, in particular, simply defies categorization. It starts with an apeggio worthy of Strunz and Farah or the Gipsy Kings- the tune is carried on the modulation of the modulation of the notes. He's THAT fast. The wall-of-progressive-sound drums/ bass/keyboards comes in behind that and sketches a counterpoint in two parts. Did I mention the glockenspiel? A keyboard picks up the original arpeggio and suddenly an electric guitar takes off on another related melody, over a disco beat! By the three minute mark we're into a third movement, which sounds like an ending, but picks up and moves to a duet for acoustic guitar carrying melody over an an acoustic piano arpeggio. Strings, electric guitar, all kinds of percussion are layed on, another ending, this one with a non-vocal chorus. A long, long, ending, full of detail and nuance. A whole 'nother tune, really, a fourth movement.
What is this like? Like nothing you've ever heard before. Like Latimer and Bardens from Camel decided to write THEIR version of "Quadrophenia" and hired John Williams, the guitarist, not the Boston Pops conductor, to play it. Like movie music for a big-budget production of "Nine Princes In Amber", directed by Kurosawa. The juxtipositions are fearless, and inspired.
The rest of the tracks are similarly wild mixes, based on incredible guitar playing, tight, focused back-up and fair-to-middling composition. Melody, rhythm and counterpoint move between the acoustic guitars, the keyboards, electric guitars, string sections. Sometimes the drummer counts time, tock-tock-tock. Everything is VERY crisp.
I find the one vocal track of the original, "Weary Eyes" to sound like an ad for something, with an unaccountable guitar solo and progressive touches- I wonder if this WAS an ad, or began as one. But "Fast Approaching", the next track, mixes so many up-beat elements with such overwhelming craft that its impossible to not say 'oh, go ahead!' and just let it play. Plenty of people get bell-like tones from the harmonics of accoustic guitars- only Giltrap mixes it with *real* bells, and roto-toms, and a raging electric guitar solo, and an ah-ah-ah male chorus.
Four bonus tracks are included, and details of the arangements differ from the US cut-out disc which I first heard in 1981. The differences make this stronger- perhaps this is how they wanted it to sound in the first place.
The first bonus, a live Cakewalk Blues, is pretty and illustrates Giltrap's solo accoustic playing which is mostly what his later career has been about. Amazing technique.
The second bonus track must be an outtake from the same sessions and deserved to be left out first time around. So did the 'single version' of "Fear Of The Dark", the third bonus track. Like the alternate take of "Brazil" on Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Stone Flower", these two less inspired tracks make the stuff that works all the more impressive- its clear that a good record isn't just a matter of recording some musicans. The muse is not indiscriminate.
The last bonus track could have been a great idea, "Oh Well", the old Fleetwood Mac gem, but the reading is all wrong, with a horn section that's tight but a chart that's wrong, and a guitar arangement which wastes Giltrap's talent and the joy of the original tune. A real disappointment.
Never mind the last three tracks then. The first 9 are WELL worth the purchase price. No filler, no wasted time. A true original that has only improved in the 22 years since it was recorded."
Great music from a great musician
Chris 'raging bill' Burton | either Kent or Manchester, United Kingdom | 01/21/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"My first introduction to Giltrap was Live At The BBC. I think it was actually a bootleg because it isn't listed here or as one of his releases on his official website. Anyway, it contained great intrumental music and I really wanted to hear more of him so I quickly ordered this album along with Visionary. In my opinion this is definately the better of the two (if you want to know why then find my review of Visionary - I posted it recently along with this one).There are actually only two songs here that were on Live At The BBC, one of which is a bonus track and the other of which is the title track. Of the 8 originals, all are great. My favourites would be the folky Roots, the energetic Nightrider and the epic title track (only the first half is played on the Live At The BBC version - this version is definately better). The musicianship is fantastic - Giltrap's guitar work is certainly some of the finest I have ever heard. He is not really a lead guitarist in the Frank Zappa type sense, but instead draws far more influence from a classical style (like John Williams) which is more of a complex and melodic rhythm style. He has created his own brand of classical playing which he then incorporates into folk and rock arrangements. Not that he doesn't play fine lead when he wants, but that isn't so much his brand of playing.As for the extras, well Catwalk Blues is the track which is also on Live At The BBC, and it is better on that album. The recording quality is better and the playing is far smoother. Smiler isn't a bad song but if its an out-take it isn't that hard to see why. The alternative version of Fear Of The Dark is interesting but while it would be very hard to not make this song sound good it is certainly nowhere near the original (or the Live At The BBC version). Oh Well isn't bad but its not my thing. I think its a Fleetwood Mac cover. These bonus tracks aren't bad music but they kinda detract from the original set of songs.The album itself would probably get a full five but as a package (I hate refering to an album with that word) this only gets four due to the bonus tracks. But I digress - if you want some passionate, technical and exiting intrumental music that merges folk, rock and classical styles together then buy this album."